Co-operative society, to many people, especially the enlightened and the rich, is seen as a primitive method of saving meant for the ‘haves-not’ in their midst. Its emergence meant nothing except to low income-earners and traders who have embraced the concept as a life-saving method.
Practical experience has shown that a cooperating group usually finds it easier and faster to accomplish tasks set for themselves than for a single individual trying to execute same task, no matter the quantum of resources available to the individual.
Relating the development to the homestead, the Western State of Nigeria where the Co-operative Movement was not developed as the Federal Government’s development plans ever included Co-operative Programmes until its Third National Development Plan for the period of 1975-1980.
The first trial co-operative society started with the Cocoa Farmers of the old Western Nigeria at a village called ‘Gbedun’ near Ibadan, Oyo State. Hence, the first registered co-operative emerged in 1935 and it was known as ‘Gbedun Co-operative Farmers Society.’
It was in the old Western Nigeria the Thrift and Loan Co-operatives were to emerge earlier, while in the eastern part of the country, Marketing Co-operatives pioneered the co-operative efforts and the Thrift and Credit Co-operatives followed in the 1970s. And the development culminated in the establishment of a Federal Ministry of Co-operatives and Supply in 1976.
However, co-operative movement in northern Nigeria was slow to begin, but it commenced with the establishment of the Co-operative Credit, and followed by Cotton and Groundnut Marketing Co-operatives.
Thus, a co-operative group can be defined as a collection of individuals having common felt needs, decided to pool their resources together in order to jointly meet their needs. To a large extent, it is also a type of functional economic circumstances made primarily in response to a desire on the part of participants to maximize individual economic advantages.
Co-operative calls for pooling resources together to address hitherto difficult or impossible task or target. It is an autonomous association of people, united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs, and they are expected to be independent of government and not owned by anyone other than members.
In underscoring the importance of the co-operative group or society to economic growth and development, in 1976, with the establishment of the “Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) by the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, the National Food Production Programme as was the River Basin Development Authorities that were established across the country, were implemented using the co-operative societies as agents.
Accordingly, 32 Livestock Feed Mills, 70 grain storage depots were also established by the Federal Ministry of Co-operatives and Supply which was a new ministry then. In similar vein, in 1985, the federal military government boosted the co-operatives activities with the establishment of the ‘Directorate of Food Roads and Rural Infrastructures’ (DFRRI) and the ‘Better Life’ Programme, using the co-operative as agents.
Also, the Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), programmes were activated by the co-operatives through the “Food First” programme. In 1992, the ‘Family Support Programme’ (FSP), through co-operatives, with the aim of improving the economic prosperity of co-operators. The number of co-operative colleges increased from three in 1974 to more than 30 tertiary institutions today, including co-operative education in their curricula.
Toluwalopemi Layade Kowo,